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Here’s how SMEs impacted by load shedding can mitigate risks

As of 2007, South Africa’s electricity sector is facing several challenges – and in reality, that is putting it lightly. The country has a high dependence on coal for power generation, which has led to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The state-owned utility company, Eskom, has been plagued by financial and operational issues, including a lack of maintenance and an overreliance on unreliable power plants over the past two decades.

South Africans have adapted to living with frequent rolling blackouts, called load shedding, but investing in private renewable energy, backup batteries, generators or simple solutions like power banks and battery-powered light sources. But load shedding’s effect stretches much further than the average citizen. Rolling blackouts are wreaking havoc on the country’s economic backbone: SMEs.

Small businesses are slowly but surely finding it less and less viable to continue operations, with frequent lack of electricity being the main culprit. Recently the Sowetan ran a print cover listing all the small businesses in that region that has succumbed to load shedding, and it’s heartbreaking.

It’s become increasingly challenging for business owners to keep their heads above water. Despite this, it’s essential to understand that a wide variety of solutions are accessible and easy to implement in the short term.

Some ways that SMEs can cope with these challenges include:

Energy efficiency: SMEs can reduce their electricity costs by implementing energy-efficient practices and technologies. This can include upgrading to energy-efficient equipment and appliances, using natural light and ventilation, and implementing power management systems.

Distributed generation: SMEs can also consider installing their own small-scale, distributed generation systems such as rooftop solar. This can help to reduce their reliance on the grid and provide a source of backup power during outages.

Load shedding schedule: SMEs should be aware of it and plan their operations accordingly. This can include scheduling production or other activities during times when electricity is less likely to be cut, and having backup plans in place for when power is cut.

Power storage: Power storage solutions such as batteries can help SMEs to manage their power usage, and reduce the impact of load shedding.

The right equipment: Laptops are easily accessible solutions to keeping your data and operations running when the power goes out. The ASUS Expertbook series of laptops vary from affordable business options to high-end, depending on the SME’s needs.

Energy procurement: SMEs can also consider procuring electricity from independent power producers (IPPs) or other sources outside Eskom, potentially providing more reliable and cost-effective power.

Energy audits: SMEs can conduct energy audits to identify areas where they can reduce energy consumption and costs. This can include identifying areas of inefficiency and evaluating the potential benefits of different energy efficiency measures.Government incentives: SMEs should also be aware of any government incentives or programs that may be available to help them cope with the electricity situation.

It’s important to note that the options mentioned above may not be feasible or suitable for all SMEs. Each business has unique problems, and it’s recommended that each company evaluates their specific situation and assesses which options are best for them.

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